'Supercondom' that protects even if it breaks
17 December 2015
An American professor of Indian origin and her team has developed a new hydrogel-based 'supercondom' that can help prevent the spread of the deadly HIV virus even if it breaks, while it also enhances sexual pleasure.
Mahua Choudhury and her team at Texas A&M University in US have come up with the non-latex condom made of an elastic polymer called hydrogel, which includes plant-based antioxidants that have anti-HIV properties.
''We are not only making a novel material for condoms to prevent the HIV infection, but we are also aiming to eradicate this infection if possible,'' Choudhury, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center's Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, said.
''Supercondom could help fight against HIV infection and may as well prevent unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases and if we succeed, it will revolutionise the HIV prevention initiative,'' said Choudhury, the lead researcher.
Choudhury, who studied molecular biology, biophysics and genetics in India before pursuing her PhD in the US, has been researching diabetes and the obesity epidemic.
She was one of 54 people awarded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's ''Grand Challenge in Global Health'' grant.
This year's initiative asked winning recipients to create an affordable, latex-free condom to help battle the HIV epidemic, which is currently affecting 35 million people in the world.
''If you can make it really affordable, and really appealing, it could be a life-saving thing,'' Choudhury said.
The condom material already exists as a water-based hydrogel for medical purposes such as contact lenses, researchers said.
In addition to protecting against STDs and pregnancy, researchers enmeshed in the hydrogel design the antioxidant quercetin, which can prevent the replication of HIV and if the condom breaks, the quercetin would be released for additional protection.
Researchers hope the condom will enjoy greater use and have a stronger effect at preventing the spread of HIV as the new design is more comfortable and also heightens sexual pleasure.
The condom has already been created and now the only thing keeping it from going to market is an approval on its patent application, researchers said.
They hope to test the condom within the next six months.
Once released, the new condom will eventually be made available to everyone, including those in rural areas, where these types of resources are limited, Choudhury said.
Since its outbreak in 1981, HIV virus has killed 39 million people.